A nighttime nationwide curfew has been imposed in Tunisia after four days of social unrest over high living costs and lack of jobs. Protests began on Tuesday after an unemployed graduate was fatally electrocuted.
Tunisia's interior ministry proclaimed a curfew on Friday to run from eight in the evening until five o'clock in the morning, citing what it called "attacks on public and private property."
On Thursday night, at least 16 people were arrested on vandalism changes in a suburb of the capital Tunis as roving groups of young people looted stores, warehouses and a bank.
The Associated Press news agency said Prime Minister Habib Essid had on Friday cut short a visit to France to return home to deal with the protests.
Unrest has spread since Tuesday from Tunisia's central region of Kasserine, where on Sunday a 28-year-old man climbed an electrical tower near regional government headquarters in protest at losing out on a government job.
He was electrocuted in an incident depicted by his family as suicide.
In the town of Feriana, a policeman died on Wednesday during an operation to disperse protesters, according to the Interior Ministry. Reports suggested that his vehicle overturned although the circumstances were unclear.
Tunisia's rate of unemployment stands at around 15 percent, but far higher among young people at around 30 percent.
Arab Spring hopes long faded
In 2011, young people were part of the so-called "Arab Spring" revolution that toppled former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Since then, discontent has remained over the government's alleged failure to stimulate economy conditions conducive for jobs.
"It's been four years I've been struggling," Leila Omri, the mother of an unemployed graduate in Kesserine told AP. "We're not asking for much, but we're fighting for our youth. We struggled so much for them."
This week's unrest is reminiscent of public anger unleashed in December 2010 by the death of a street vendor who set himself on fire in a nearby town in protest at unemployment and police harassment.
Othman Yahyaoui, the father of young man electrocuted, said his son Ridha, a graduate in electromechanics, was protesting the removal of his name from a list of public sector recruits.
"My son is a victim of corruption, marginalization and broken promises;" Yahyaoui senior told the news agency AFP.
"If there is no corruption, the name of my son would never have been removed and he would still be alive," he said.
"As long as nepotism continues, others will die like him," the father said.
Tunisia is also confronted with rising jihadist violence that saw a string of attacks last year including one at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis and another at the Mediterranean resort of Sousse.
Tunisia has held two general elections since the 2011 revolution.
ipj/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters)